The Moving Missions of Community Colleges: An Examination of Degree-Granting Profiles Over Time

Sondra N. Barringer, Ozan Jaquette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite extensive debate about the curricular mission of community colleges, prior research has not sufficiently analyzed differences in the kinds of degrees (i.e., the field of study and award level) community colleges produce. Therefore, we explore both the fields of study and the levels at which public community colleges grant degrees and analyze how this has changed over time. Method: Multilevel latent class analysis is used here to estimate latent degree-granting profiles, and colleges are allocated into the profiles based on their observed degree-granting behaviors from 1987 to 2012. Results: The analysis shows that public community colleges can be allocated into five distinct degree-granting profiles over the period of study. A small minority of colleges have and continue to engage almost exclusively in a vocational mission. The two degree profiles that increased in prominence over time suggest an overall shift toward the simultaneous pursuit of transfer and vocational missions. However, a majority of colleges (68%) exhibited stable degree-granting behaviors between 1987 and 2012, indicating a relatively high level of stability in degree-granting patterns across community colleges during this period. Contribution: These patterns highlight variation across colleges and both stability and change within institutions over time. This suggests that public community colleges are simultaneously situated in strong institutional and technical environments and, thus, are subject to constraints and incentives that shape not only their stated policies but also their actual degree-granting behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-443
Number of pages27
JournalCommunity College Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • degree profiles
  • multilevel latent class analysis
  • neoinstitutional theory
  • organizational change
  • student outcomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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